NBC's Ned Colt Ponders: Osama Bin Laden 'Fanatic' or 'Hero?'

What is it about liberal reporters that they can deliver slanted pieces about conservatives time and time again but when it comes to a mass-murdering terrorist they feel compelled to give the other side? On Tuesday's "Today" show, NBC's Ned Colt decided he needed to balance out the views of Osama Bin Laden, as he rhetorically asked about the al Qaeda leader: "Murderous fanatic or hero of radical Islam?" Colt even went on to relay a soundbite from the editor of Al-Quds who painted Bin Laden as the "little David" with the U.S. playing the role of "the mighty Goliath."

The following is Colt's set-up piece and the full interview as they occurred on the January 22, "Today" show:

MATT LAUER: He is the most wanted man in the world, Osama Bin Laden. The al Qaeda leader has been on the run for years now but his son Omar is speaking out. The 26-year-old says he wants to bring peace to the world. We'll talk to him in a moment but first NBC's Ned Colt on public enemy #1.

[On screen graphic: His Father, The Terrorist: Osama Bin Laden's Son Breaks His Silence]

NED COLT: Murderous fanatic or hero of radical Islam? 50 year-old Osama Bin Laden is an icon of intense hatred and profound reverence.

ABDEL BARI ATWAN, EDITOR OF AL-QUDS: History will remember Osama Bin Laden as the man who challenged the American superpower. The little David who actually stand up against the mighty Goliath.

COLT: In the West the Saudi born al Qaeda leader is blamed for the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombings at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and two years later the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. And while he's never directly claimed responsibility for 9/11, at the very least he inspired the attacks that left 3000 dead. Today the father of at least 23 children remains the FBI's most wanted terrorist and despite a $50 million price on his head has eluded capture in the rugged border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Among his followers he's obtained almost mythical status, financing his attacks with a $25 million personal fortune.

ATWAN: To manage to survive for actually about seven years, on the run, without being captured and traumatizing the life of the president of the greatest power in history.

COLT: That hatred hasn't diminished since. Every few months Bin Laden appears in a video denouncing the infidel West. He last appeared in September with his graying beard freshly dyed black when he launched a verbal attack on President Bush and America's war in Iraq. American officials believe Bin Laden's power has only increased in recent years with his followers now active in at least 40 countries worldwide. For Today, Ned Colt, NBC News, London.

LAUER: And a little earlier this morning I spoke to Osama Bin Laden's son Omar and his wife Zana. They are in Cairo, Egypt and because of a satellite delay and a little bit of a language barrier the interview was somewhat stilted but still interesting. I started by asking Omar Bin Laden why he's speaking out now.

OMAR BIN LADEN: Just because I get the chance and because I learn about the life more and that's it.

LAUER: Omar let me ask you, based on what your father has admitted responsibility for, some of the attacks that he says he has masterminded and there are several of those. If you were, and I interviewed your half-uncle I guess it would be, Osama's half-brother Yeslam Bin Laden in Geneva two years ago. And I asked him this question, I said if you were to find out where Osama Bin Laden was right now would you turn him in? So Omar how would you answer that question.

OMAR BIN LADEN: I say a lot time, sure I'm not going to, tell anybody about his place if I know where he is and anyway this is not going to happen. That's all.

ZANA BIN LADEN: But you hope he'll come forward and speak to Bush. This is one thing.

OMAR BIN LADEN: And I hope-

ZANA BIN LADEN: We hope that he will come forward and speak to the, the President-

OMAR BIN LADEN: I hope they find the problem, they will meet, do some meeting and to talk together between helping from the some president, some king and sheikh from Islam to fix this situation. Find the middle ground between everybody and that's what I, that's what my goal to find it for every civilian people.

LAUER: Given, given the chan-, given the fact that-

ZANA BIN LADEN: We want a meeting.

LAUER: Let me just say, given the fact that, it's very unlikely the U.S. administration would sit down and talk to Osama Bin Laden, based on, on his track record, do you think he'll ever be caught Omar?

ZANA BIN LADEN: Hold on one second. Can we just say Omar, you know, we, we talk about Gerry Adams and we talk about the IRA. You know Gerry Adams was cast as a terrorist. The IRA killed an awful lot of people, yet they talked. They sat down at the table and now Gerry Adams is an MP. Why can't we try and get something like that with Osama. You know there's not going to be any peace unless people talk. They can't, peace doesn't come with bombs, peace doesn't come with fighting. You know, and saying that you know to arrest Osama and bring him to court it's not gonna solve anything because there's people that are worse than Osama out there.

OMAR BIN LADEN: Of the same mind. Yeah of the same mind.

ZANA BIN LADEN: Yeah there's other people. You take Osama away and what are you going to get. You might get something a hell of a lot worse. Sorry.

LAUER: Well, well, that's alright but-

ZANA BIN LADEN: That's what we're afraid of.

LAUER: But on the other side of that coin Zana if you were, if you were-

ZANA BIN LADEN: We're afraid of that. We are afraid of that.

LAUER: Okay but on the other side of that coin if Osama Bin Laden by some strange chance were to sit down and say, "I'm willing to talk," it wouldn't stop those other people in al Qaeda right now anyway, would it?

ZANA BIN LADEN: He might have, have some influence. Without Osama we don't know what's going to happen.

OMAR BIN LADEN: They have, I think, the world have chance now to find newer solution of new ground for peace because still my father alive. They have some head to talk to. But I think if my father die there would be a lot people, everybody, everybody will say, "I am now the head of al Qaeda." And you will find thousand of al Qaeda everywhere. And because that I hope, I hope, not for my father, not for President Bush but for everybody just before the civilian people dying everyday. Some in Philistine, some in Iraq, some in Afghanistan. Why, why, why should civilian die between the head of the government people?

LAUER: We should say that Omar Bin Laden says he doesn't agree with his father's methods but he does stop short, also, of calling him a terrorist. Omar Bin Laden and his wife Zana earlier this morning.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.